economics

Updated at 2:50 a.m. ET on Wednesday

The Trump administration has published a preliminary list of additional Chinese products that could be targeted with tariffs in the escalating trade war between the world's two biggest economies. The list covers some $200 billion in Chinese exports that could be hit by a 10 percent tariff. It's an extensive list of over 6,000 goods that include seafood, propane and toilet paper, among many other things.

U.S. whiskey distillers are fretting over the steep new tariffs they're facing around the world. They're being punished as U.S. trading partners retaliate against the Trump administration's tariffs on steel and aluminum. Now, the distillers fear that a long boom in U.S. whiskey exports could be coming to an end.

Kentucky bourbon has experienced a huge revival over the past decade — thanks in large part to U.S. trade initiatives that have opened up global markets, says Eric Gregory of the Kentucky Distillers' Association.

Kentucky Braces for New Sales Taxes on Sunday, July 1

Jun 27, 2018

Residents of this conservative state will begin paying a slew of new taxes next week because of a convergence of circumstances that could test voter loyalty in November.  Starting Sunday, prices for things like car repairs, tanning bed visits, veterinary care and gym memberships will jump 6 percent because of a new law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature.

When President Trump announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports this month, he said protecting the two industries was vital for national security.

"We want to build our ships. We want to build our planes. We want to build our military equipment with steel, with aluminum from our country," he said at a March 8 White House news conference.

In other words, the U.S. military should be as self-sufficient as possible, and not rely on other countries to supply the essential materials it needs for defense.

Erica Peterson

Add another export to the growing list of American products other countries could tax because of tariffs: met coal.

Metallurgical coal — or “met coal” — is low-ash, low-sulfur coal that’s used to produce coke, an essential fuel for steel-making.

Demand for met coal is tied to the demand for steel. It’s also an American export and a symbol President Donald Trump used often on the campaign trail to demonstrate how he would “Make America great again.”

J. Tyler Frankin

Gov. Matt Bevin was non-committal when asked what he thinks of President Donald Trump’s proposal to institute tariffs on foreign-made steel and aluminum.

The policy could benefit Kentucky aluminum manufacturers like Braidy Industries — the company that Bevin helped attract to the state with a package of economic incentives — and Century Aluminum, which announced it would hire 300 new workers in Hancock County if the tariff went into effect.

Updated at 5:14 p.m. ET

President Trump promised steel and aluminum executives Thursday that he will levy tariffs on imports of their products in coming weeks. He said the imported steel will face tariffs of 25 percent, while aluminum will face tariffs of 10 percent.

"We're going to build our steel industry back and we're going to build our aluminum industry back," Trump told reporters.

Nicole Erwin

When President Trump picked the Ohio Valley as the setting to promote his infrastructure plan, he also drew attention to an overlooked part of the nation’s transportation system: inland waterways. Agriculture, energy, and manufacturing interests all depend heavily on the Ohio’s aging navigation system.

The president’s speech in Cincinnati cheered many industry leaders who have long been frustrated by costly delays caused by failing locks and dams on the river. But some of the Trump administration’s ideas for changing how the country plans and pays for waterways projects have raised concerns among infrastructure experts.


Wikimedia Commons

Kentucky officials say annual unemployment rates fell in 86 of the state’s counties in 2016 compared to 2015. Annual rates rose in 26 counties and stayed the same in eight.

The Kentucky Office of Employment and Training says Woodford County had the state’s lowest annual jobless rate in 2016 at 3.2 percent.

It was followed by Oldham County at 3.4 percent; Fayette and Shelby counties at 3.5 percent each; and Scott County at 3.7 percent.

Officials say Magoffin County had the state’s highest annual unemployment rate in 2016 at 18.8 percent. It was followed by Leslie County at 13 percent; Harlan County at 12.1 percent; Letcher County at 11.9 percent; Knott County at 11.2 percent.

They say Russell County had the state’s largest drop in its annual jobless rate.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is continuing his push for the local option sales tax, which would let communities vote on temporary sales tax increases to fund projects.

The Democratic mayor is facing opposition to the plan, but not from where you might expect. Much of the criticism of the effort comes from the political left.

In a 15-minute pitch in Frankfort, Fischer extolled the civic virtues of a sales tax that he says would be used to fund local projects chosen by committee and placed on a ballot before voters.

“We need additional capital sources," the mayor told his audience. "In the case of Louisville, 11 years ago four percent of our general fund was for pensions. Today it’s 15 percent. So it’s like a business, we’ve had an 11 percent increase in our expenses, but we haven’t been able to raise our prices; that is, we haven’t had a tax increase.”

But fellow Louisvillian and fellow Democrat Rep. Jim Wayne cited a study that showed the local option means lower income residents would pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than wealthier residents.

An economic think-tank says a raise in the minimum wage would benefit reduce child poverty and help about a quarter of Kentucky workers.

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy says a $10.10 an hour minimum wage would lead to a boost in consumer spending. That, they say, would spur job creation, and allow low-income families to make ends meet.

Opponents argue higher wages would force layoffs or cause businesses to raise prices. But center director Jason Bailey says it would actually keep employees in what are currently lower-paying jobs. That cuts the costs businesses pay to hire and train new workers.

“The lack of consumer spending is a big impediment to additional hiring; that additional money in people’s pockets, low-wage workers’ pockets at this time, money that they will then spend, could actually result in a small job gain," Bailey said.

Bailey supports a bill filed by House Speaker Greg Stumbo that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. A new Public Policy Polling survey shows that 57 percent of Kentuckians support the idea.

Stumbo’s measure would also require pay equity for women, who earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Governor Beshear has announced a new contract to remake a major interchange along the Interstate-69 corridor in Hopkins County.

The latest phase of the project involves creating a cloverleaf interchange connecting I-69 with the Breathitt-Pennyrile parkway, south of Madisonville.

The $29 million contract was awarded to the Nashville-based Rogers Group, Inc., and Louisville-based Qk4 Inc., with a completion date set for May of 2015. Kentucky’s stretch of I-69 will eventually run north to south from Henderson to Fulton, in far western Kentucky.

Political and business leaders hope upgrading the existing roadway will boost jobs and economic activity along the I-69 corridor.

Completing the project will mean major upgrades to parts of the Pennyrile, Western Kentucky, and Purchase Parkways, which were not built to handle traffic merging into 70-mile-per hour roadways.

A Kentucky nonprofit says a state earned income tax credit would help working families.

Kentucky Youth Advocates released an issue brief  that says the credit would piggyback onto the federal earned income credit. That could yield up to $337 per applicant, with little to no administrative cost to state government.

The proposal could cost up to $134 million per year. But KYA Executive Director Terry Brooks says it would help pay for itself by putting money back into local economies.

“We know that families who get earned income credits are not going to take that refund and put it in their off-shore account. Instead, they’re going to be spending money at the local hardware store, at the local car repair shop, at the appliance store. They’re going to be taking their kids to the department store to buy them clothes for school.

Neither Democratic nor Republican leadership is voicing support for comprehensive tax reform in the next year. But the earned income tax credit has bipartisan support on the federal level, and Brooks says the measure would likely enjoy the same in state government.

Since the beginning of the 1990's, the percentage of Kentucky's population comprised of immigrants has soared by more than 300%. While their overall number is still small, WKU economics professor Dr. Brian Strow says their effect is being felt and it's a net plus.

Strow's study shows immigrants locally have a higher employment percentage than native born people and a higher mean income. There's also a higher number who are self-employed.

Joe Corcoran spoke with Dr. Strow about the benefits of immigrant entrepreneurs.